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Robert Mugge’s New Orleans Music in Exile: After the Storm

Robert Mugge and film crew preparing to interview Phil Frazier, leader of ReBirth Brass Band, in Houston.
Irma Thomas with Robert Mugge outside her club, The Lion's Den.

Over the past 25 years, documentary filmmaker Robert Mugge has established himself as the foremost chronicler of American music, hailed for his insightful portrayals of such enigmatic figures as Sun Ra (A Joyful Noise), Gil Scott-Heron (Black Wax) and Sonny Rollins (Saxophone Colossus). He also created sympathetic documentaries on various roots music scenes, including Deep Blues, The Kingdom of Zydeco and Last of the Mississippi Jukes. With his latest project, New Orleans Music in Exile, Mugge and his crew focus on musicians who evacuated the Crescent City for higher ground in the face of Hurricane Katrina.

Within days after Katrina leveled New Orleans in late August 2005, Mugge’s documentarian instincts kicked in: “I was immediately in touch with the Starz Entertainment Group saying, ‘There’s an incredible story here. It’s maybe as big a music-related story as has happened in our lifetimes. Here is arguably our most important city, culturally speaking, lying to a great extent in ruins. There’s a real question whether government and others are going to rise to the task to save it and to save this culture. And we have the opportunity to get right in there now and tell this story.'”

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